Something wondrous is afoot in Central Square. Underground Railway Theater is presenting two companion pieces: "Brundibar & But The Giraffe." This short play and children's opera combination is a "not to be missed" event. Let me outline some of the reason why I am so passionate about this project.
- Pultizer Prize Winner Tony Kushner has adapted a children's opera that originated in Czechoslovakia during the Nazi occupation, composed by Hans Krasa and Adolf Hoffmeister.
- During the Holocaust, part of the score and libretto were carried to the Terezin concentration camp and recreated. The opera was performed by children who were imprisoned there.
- In order to provide some historical context for the opera, Mr. Kushner wrote a short play, "And The Giraffe," that explains how the manuscript of the opera made its way from Prague to Theresienstadt. In the play, Eva, a brave and self-sacrificing little girl makes a decision to leave her beloved stuffed giraffe behind to allow room in the one suitcase she was allowed for the manuscript to be transported. Young Nora Iammarino is particularly impressive in the role of Eva. She demonstrates a mastery of complex dialogue and a range of emotions that would be the envy of many seasoned adult actors.
- Under the Direction of Scott Edmiston and Musical Direction of Todd C. Gordon, the ensemble of young actors and singers performed flawlessly. They were singing very complex music with great confidence and precision.
- The opera is a morality play in which two penniless children attempt to sing to earn money to buy milk for their ailing mother. They are prevented from singing by the bully, Brundibar (in a terrific portrayal by John J. King), a clownish organ grinder who feels he should have a monopoly on busking in the town square.
- In its original context, the opera had obvious political undertones regarding the Nazi regime. It translates well into our present era in which we are focusing on teaching our children how to deal with bullying.
- The creative team and the adult actors who have been teaching and supporting the children's ensemble have created an environment and atmosphere that allows the children to shine while they learn. The individuals responsible are credited below.
- At a meta-level, under the Artistic Direction of Debra Wise, Underground Railway Theater demonstrates its commitment to train a new generation of artists and audience members who learn early in life how integral the arts must be to a full and balanced existence.